Story By: Sara Zhivkova, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
Women who turned up at a hospital in Rome to have an abortion had been horrified to learn that the remains have been buried in a cemetery with a cross – with the names added to it.
Abortion was legalised in Italy 40 years ago, but a clause in the law means that gynaecologists can opt to refuse by declaring themselves “conscientious objectors”.
And many had been taking that option because the Catholic Church, which is the predominant religion in Italy, opposes abortion because life is sacred and created at the moment of conception.
That means that an aborted foetus was also regarded as a person and also has a right to a Christian burial.
The number of conscientious objectors makes it difficult for women to find a doctor prepared to carry out abortions, and even when in the hospital women are often put under pressure and made to feel guilty about the decision.
The scandal about the secret burials without the permission of the mother came to light after one woman identified as Marta Loi was asked if she wanted a burial which was her right to request for an aborted foetus.
A law dating back to Italy’s fascist era states that women who undergo an abortion can ask the hospital for a burial.
She had declined, but had been suspicious about the way she was asked, and decided to make enquiries.
Loi said she had terminated her pregnancy in June, but “had a niggling doubt” about the burial offer and contacted the abortion clinic.
She said that after getting vague answers, she contacted a local mortuary that told her they had been given the foetus and had buried it as a “kind gesture”.
She was told: “Do not worry, they all have their own spot with a cross and you will find them by name.”
Loi then went to the cemetery and discovered the plot of buried foetuses, according to La Repubblica.
She said that the Flaminio Cemetery in Rome has a large number of small wooden crosses with a sign naming the aborted foetuses’ mother, as confirmed by newspaper la Repubblica.
Marta Loi was the first to publicly denounce the Flaminio Cemetery on Facebook with a photo of one cross bearing her name, writing: “I begin by explaining that this is not my grave, it is the name of my child.
“When I signed all the papers related to my pregnancy termination, they asked if I wanted a funeral and proper burial.
“I said no.”
Following an online furore about Loi’s post, the Italian Data Protection Authority has reportedly opened an investigation and even the use of the cross to mark the graves is under consideration apparently because it is not clear what the religious denomination was of all of the women who underwent abortions.
Many other women who share the same experience launched a petition several months ago with the slogan ‘no to the burial of aborted foetuses without the woman’s consent’.
Ama SpA, the company that manages cemetery services in the Municipality of Rome, said they had no control over what had happened and that they simply acted on what they were sent by local authorities.
A company spokesperson added: “The epigraph, in the absence of an assigned name, must contain some basic information to help people find the burial place.”
The investigation continues.
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